WASHINGTON -- Emma Meesseman politely denies it.
Even when basking in the glory of being named the WNBA Finals MVP, she will not take credit. Even when she is the lone difference in last year’s Mystics team that got swept in the Finals and the team that triumphed in five games this season.
She’s shot it down ever since it’s been brought up. Her teammates certainly believe it and are quick to tout to anyone that asks. It was even the first thing Mike Thibault said in his post-championship press conference.
No one will ever get her to say – or admit – that she was the Washington Mystics’ “missing piece.”
Washington raising their first WNBA trophy with Meesseman as the most valuable player says otherwise.
“She was the difference," Kristi Toliver said after calling her the “missing piece” again on Thursday. “The way she played tonight in the moments that she wanted the ball in the biggest moments, and a couple years ago she didn't. And so that's a huge credit to her and her growth as a player and a person. So she was enormous for us.”
Her story has been well-documented. Meesseman, a 2013 first-round draft pick for Washington, missed all of the 2018 season for a personal break from the game. Without her, the Mystics lost in the Finals to the Seattle Storm in three games.
A year away clearly paid off as she ripped through the playoff competition. During the Finals, she averaged 17.8 points while shooting 57.1% from the field and 50% from behind the arc en route to the MVP award. Every game she came off of the bench. Every game she delivered double-digit scoring as well as providing some great defensive help in the post against the taller Connecticut Sun.
Nicknamed “Playoff Emma,” the forward led the team in scoring in five of their nine playoff games. With the regular season MVP Elena Delle Donne hamstrung by a back injury, Meesseman was the one that stepped up to get the team their elusive championship.
That was no different in the deciding Game 5 against the Connecticut Sun.
Shots were not falling for Washington. From the field, behind the arc, everyone was struggling. It was so bad Delle Donne couldn’t even hit a technical free throw. Washington was quickly down by nine. Immediately when she checked in during the second half Meesseman took over.
In a six-minute span, the Belgian scored 11 points, all within the confines of the 3-point arc. A turnaround fading-away bank shot, a turnaround jumper with multiple ball fakes, a finger-roll drive to the cup, a standard pull-up jumper and three free throws got it down. She whipped out her entire arsenal, except her long-range game.
By the time Connecticut realized they had poor Brionna Jones, who had only played 10 minutes in the series before Game 5, matched up against Meesseman, it was too late.
“I just really, really wanted to win this game, so I just came on the court, and I knew that it was a moment that we needed some energy,” Meesseman said on her third-quarter performance. “I was just going at the basket, and it was going in, so I just kept going. Coach has been talking about, if your shot is going in, or even if not, you just have to take your opportunity.”
Meesseman finished the contest with a team-high 22 points.
This year she took that opportunity by the horns. Never did Meesseman shy away from the moment. Fittingly it was the “missing piece” that was the one who pulled together a record-breaking season into the franchise’s first title.
Sure, this title will be remembered as the first for several parties - Thibault, Delle Donne, Cloud among others. They "ran it back," smashing records in the process and are one of the few record-breaking teams to culminate their season with a championship. It was the first for the franchise, christening the new Entertainment and Sports Arena.
But when the confetti is all swept away, never forget the importance of Emma Meesseman.
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